Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

October 27 2022 | Written by Rheanna Summers (She/Her)

Disclaimer: This blog will be using gendered language to remain consistent with general literature and studies that currently exist surrounding PMDD.

Many people have grown up hearing and learning about premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and the general symptoms that someone may experience prior to their period. But have you ever heard of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)? I personally hadn’t until a few days ago. For something that affects approximately 3%-8% of women who are in their reproductive years, it is a health condition that I surprisingly have heard very little about. Let’s now take the time to educate ourselves on what others may find as a very real reality. 

What is PMDD?

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is generally considered to be more intense than premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The first time that I had ever heard of PMDD was through this TikTok video, which I recommend you check out for a first-hand account of what it is like to live with PMDD.

 

@itsmayanic0le #stitch with @thesocialculture PMDD chats #girlproblems #pmdd #periodproblems ♬ original sound - Maya'Nicole

 

As this tiktoker explains, her symptoms typically begin a few weeks prior to her period. Generally, symptoms range from being both emotional and physical responses. For example, a symptom that’s considered emotionally driven could include anything from forgetfulness, moodiness and agitation, to paranoia, panic attacks and suicidal thoughts. 

Before diving into the physical symptoms of PMDD, we want to emphasize the importance of seeking assistance if you are experiencing thoughts of suicide or self harm. Later in this blog I will touch on certain resources that are available for you to use. 

Certain physical symptoms of PMDD could include, but are not limited to:

  • body aches and pains
  • a decrease in sex drive
  • heart palpitations
  • changes to appetite

The key takeaway is just how much PMDD can affect some people, and experts are still attempting to identify what causes it in the first place. According to one study based out of the United States, researchers discovered that PMDD may occur as a result of some women having a different molecular makeup than others. This difference at a molecular level could make some women more susceptible and sensitive to progesterone and estrogen changes within their body, which ultimately results in PMDD. However, there has not been enough research done with regards to PMDD to truly know what causes it. 

While I am no doctor or scientist, it is both fascinating as well as liberating to know that emotions can be impacted by biological functions such as hormone changes and regulation. Too often, there is this narrative that women are “overly emotional” or “too sensitive”, when perhaps it literally comes down to our biological and molecular makeup. And also, just to add, emotions are valid, regardless of the root cause. 

Is PMDD Treatable?

To preface this part of the blog, if you believe you’re experiencing symptoms of PMDD, I encourage you to speak to a medical professional to discuss potential treatments and approaches to mitigate the effects of it. Treatments typically cover some breadth of these three approaches: therapy, lifestyle changes, and prescription medication. Lifestyle changes such as increasing regular exercise, changes to your diet, or taking targeted supplements can help manage some PMDD symptoms. 

Another potential option for treating or managing PMDD is therapy. In particular, searching for a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) could be best. 

Depending on your personal case, one method of treatment you may discuss with a therapist is the use of antidepressants. Certain types of antidepressants can help by slowing the reuptake of serotonin in your brain. If you’re interested in learning more about serotonin reuptake inhibitors, this article by Harvard Medical provides some insight.

Another possible method to treat or manage PMDD is hormonal birth control pills. Given that PMDD frequently occurs during ovulation, some doctors believe that by stopping ovulation altogether, the people who have been diagnosed with PMDD may see a reduction in symptoms overall. This would be done by skipping the sugar pills that are meant to be taken while on your period, but again, it’s best to speak with your doctor regarding your options. 

Overall, I encourage you to explore all avenues if you have found yourself with a PMDD diagnosis and unsure of what to do next or how to seek help.

Is PMDD a Secret? 

Why is it that I had never heard of PMDD? I can’t help but think that it has something to do with how menstruation is viewed as a whole. Growing up, I knew that getting my period was inevitable. What I didn’t know was that I would be expected to continue functioning as a human being, whilst menstruating. As someone who does deal with some of the symptoms associated with PMDD, I find it crazy that more people don’t know about it. Unless I’m totally out of the loop – which I’ll admit, is entirely possible. But this has me wondering, is PMDD a secret that fails to be acknowledged? 

While this research could be considered on the older side, in 2011 it was published that nearly 90% of women who have PMDD may go undiagnosed. The complexity of PMDD and the lack of knowledge surrounding what it is and how it can be treated tends to point towards the downright dismissal of women’s health and wellness issues. That is the only thing that I can chalk it up to. 

 

@prettybasicofficial

Dixie opened up to us about recently being diagnosed with PMDD. we hope that her sharing her experience helps at least one person 💗 new episode is live!!

♬ original sound - Pretty Basic

 

Resources

As promised, to finish this blog in a hopefully positive note, here are some resources to look into if you’re a) wanting to learn more about PMDD or b) looking for support with a diagnosis. Try to remember that you’re genuinely not alone in your experiences and that your thoughts and feelings are valid, not just “you being emotional on your period”. And as always, reach out if you’re struggling. Mental health is important, and (hopefully) researchers will continue to explore the link between hormones and mental health. Collectively, in the meantime, we can all be a little more compassionate and understanding with one another.